Fort King George
Darien, Georgia, USA

Constructed: 1721
Used by: Great Britain
Conflict in which it participated:

Fort King George was Great Britain's southernmost outpost in the New World, and their first settlement in Coastal Georgia, when it was built in 1721. Though 140 of the fort's garrison would die while on duty there, not a one was due to the ever-threatening Spanish, French and/or Indians.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Altamaha region of what is today Georgia was a wild and wooly place. To the south, France had established itself at Fort Caroline, and Spain resolutely manned the Castillo de San Marcos and a number of other missions and outposts throughout Florida.

To the north was the British colony of South Carolina, and in every other direction there were of course hostile Indians. The rich lands of the Altamaha and Savannah Rivers, however, were extremely desirable to all the colonial powers...and, presumably, to the Indians who were already there as well.

A gorgeous painting of Fort King George in its heyday, at the fort's Visitor's Center. Fort King George made much more sense when it was surrounded by water on three sides.
The British colony of Georgia wasn't established until 1733, so Fort King George would be built in what at the time was considered South Carolina: In fact the British claimed everything to 29 degrees north latitude, which was just south of St. Augustine, which seemed pretty clearly Spanish to anyone who was paying attention.

The first high ground overlooking the north branch of the Altamaha was chosen as the site for Fort King George.

John "Tuscarora Jack" Barnwell (1671-1724) was the colorful character who led the expedition to establish Fort King George. So named due to his enthusiastic participation in the Tuscarora War (1711-1715), in which English, German and Dutch settlers, along with their Yamasee and Cherokee Indian allies, vanquished the notionally wicked Tuscarora Indians, Barnwell was by 1721 a colonial bigshot who campaigned for settlement along the Altamaha River to check Spanish expansion and Indian...existence.

Barnwell oversaw the construction of a three-story cypress blockhouse, a series of support buildings and surrounding timber-reinforced earthwork in the autumn of 1721. Even today, Fort King George is not in a terribly hospitable region. It's a beautiful, but marshy, swampy and generally unhealthy environment. Imagine what it would have been like for the troops sent to garrison this far-flung outpost of the British Empire in the early 18th century. Still, a young, healthy soldier would have no trouble ducking arrows, mosquitoes and alligators, surely?

Maybe, but Britain's King George I (1660-1727), after whom Fort King George was named, didn't send young healthy troops to his namesake fort in the New World. Assumedly wanting a presence there, but not expecting much in the way of an organized foe, Britain sent His Majesty's Independent Regiment to man the walls.

This regiment was made up of invalids and old men, and the hot, wet climate did not do their arthritis, gout and consumption any favors.

Looking along Fort King George's northwestern wall towards the main gate. I. Love. This. Picture.

Fort King George may have provided a warm, fuzzy feeling for colonists in South Carolina, but its elderly, ailing garrison was wasting away at an alarming rate. A fire in 1725 destroyed the barracks, and its shoddy reconstruction made everyone even more miserable. Finally, the garrsion was withdrawn to Port Royal in 1727. Two South Carolina Rangers remained at the fort to keep an eye on things (to feed the alligators and mow the lawn, but also to monitor enemy movement, if there were to be either an actual enemy or movement), but they finally wandered away for good in 1734.

The majestic blockhouse of Fort King George.
While Fort King George's garrison was dwindling down to nothing, however, funny-wig-wearer James Oglethorpe (1696-1785) established the colony of Georgia in 1733. Oglethorpe thought that a fort on the Altamaha was a swell place to base an actual settlement, as opposed to just lightly manning it with coughing geezers.

At the beginning of 1736 Oglethorpe arrived at Fort King George with a group of settler-soldiers from the Scottish Highlands.

The Highlanders founded the town of New Inverness near the fort. A shipload of 177 further Scottish emigrants arrived shortly after, including woman and children, without whom no settlement would really work out all that well, and the town was renamed Darien.

The Highlanders of Darien busily scurried about the area, smiting the Spanish and hostile Indians whenever possible, but Fort King George was never attacked by anyone. At some point over the next 200 years, Fort King George's mighty blockhouse disappeared. Originally designed to be easily dismantled, it's thought that the blockhouse may have been moved elsewhere and then slowly disintegrated over time.

In 1988 the blockhouse, inner buildings and earthworks were reconstructed thanks to efforts by the Lower Altamaha Historical Society and Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Based on Tuscarora Jack's original drawings for the fort, it now appears as it did in 1721. Fort King George Historical Site is open year 'round, and is accessible for a mere $7 per visitor.

I visited Fort King George in April of 2014, and took approximately one billion pictures. Won't you check out my Visit to Fort King George page in the Starforts I've Visited section?